what doesn’t belong? and why?

Today for small groups, we had two independent reading stations, an ABC station, a rhyming station, and a vocabulary station.  I was in charge of vocabulary, and decided to use some picture cards that have four pictures on each, with the question, which one doesn’t belong?  For example, there were four pictures of ice cream, but three were on cones, and the fourth was in a bowl with whipped cream and hot fudge sauce.  And a cherry.

I worked with one group of three, two of whom are native Spanish speakers, and they were puzzled.  One girl told me that the green ice cream was “apple” flavor.  Another pointed out the cherry on the sundae and said, “I like cherry!”  The boy in the group shrugged and said “I don’t know” when I asked him which one didn’t belong.  Then he pointed to the sundae.

“Why is that one different?  Why doesn’t it belong?”

He smiled in a slightly pained, confused sort of way.  “I don’t know!” he said.  So I ended up pointing out the ice cream cones on the other three, and then all three laughed with comprehension.

I tried another one (three green foods — apple, celery, artichoke — and one red food, a watermelon), and the kids were stumped.  Finally the boy pointed to the watermelon, but he was utterly unable to explain why that was the answer.  My next group struggled as well.  However, both groups thought it was really fun, and didn’t seem to realize that they didn’t quite know how to figure out the question.

The third group consisted of two girls and a boy who all have college-educated parents.  They sat forward eagerly.  I asked my shy girl to do the first card.  “That one!” she crowed, pointing to the tiger.  “Because all the rest are farm animals!”  The three of them flew through the cards, taking turns with each one.  They had no trouble at all identifying which picture didn’t belong, and then explaining why.

All of the kids who struggled with this task are lovely children, and some of them are very bright.  They have parents who love them, and take good care of them, and send them to school each day, and show up for parent conferences.  It looks like they just don’t talk to them a lot, and they don’t and ask them why questions.

So our list of goals for the year, of skills we need to work on, just keeps getting longer.

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